Microsoft Moving Michigan Tech Center to Downtown Detroit

Bedrock Detroit, the real estate company tied to Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert, announced today that it has successfully lured Microsoft to downtown Detroit.

The Redmond, WA-based technology giant (NASDAQ: MSFT) has maintained a 52,000-square-foot tech center in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, since 2010. But Microsoft’s planned 2018 relocation to the Motor City is being heralded by Bedrock as a “historic announcement affecting the future of downtown Detroit.”

The Microsoft news is certainly a boon to the city’s tax coffers and rebranding efforts. To have another huge corporation—especially a tech company—open an office in Detroit’s rapidly changing downtown indicates ongoing growth. Microsoft’s planned 40,000-square-foot space in Compuware’s former headquarters at One Campus Martius further signals that, with the right incentives, businesses feel comfortable investing in Detroit again.

But will Microsoft’s larger presence in Detroit mean the city that once put the world on wheels is now considered a bonafide tech hub by the world at large? That remains to be seen—but it definitely makes for good optics, as they say in politics.

What exactly is the Microsoft Technology Center? According to its website, it offers a range of IT consulting services meant to connect Michigan businesses with Microsoft’s products. The company already operates similar centers in a number of areas, including Boston, Dallas, New York, and Silicon Valley.

“Not only will the Microsoft Technology Center provide a much-needed resource for Detroit-based businesses, its presence will also connect Detroiters with a wider global network,” Gilbert said in a prepared statement. “This is another great example of an innovative, global business moving downtown and further evidence that Detroit is quickly becoming one of the technology centers of the country.”

Microsoft emphasized that it is “strongly committed to Detroit’s thriving technology hub,” according to a prepared statement from Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group.

“By providing a customer-facing center dedicated to the business community, we’re also supporting Detroit’s continuing revitalization,” Sorgen said in the prepared statement.

In past few years, Detroit has specialized in these kinds of business-opportunity-as-revitalization announcements. Gilbert’s downtown real estate holdings are vast, and he has worked tirelessly to make the city an appealing place for tech startups and young professionals. Last spring, news broke that he was working with investor Warren Buffett to put together a bid for Yahoo, a deal that would have relocated at least part of the tech company from the Bay Area to Detroit. Although that deal never materialized, it wasn’t Gilbert’s first push to get Yahoo’s employees to Detroit.

In 2012, shortly after Yahoo cut 2,000 jobs, Gilbert also helped spearhead an initiative to entice the recently laid off staffers to apply for the many open tech jobs in metro Detroit. The plan was to woo former Yahoo workers by offering an expedited hiring process and other benefits. It’s not known how successful this program was; our efforts to find out last spring were unsuccessful.

In 2014, Microsoft Ventures, the company’s startup investment and acceleration arm, opened a small office in Bedrock’s Madison Building, a few blocks away from One Campus Martius. It’s not yet known whether that operation will fold into the larger one.

Also unknown is how many of Microsoft’s employees will be working in Detroit once the move happens. We’ve reached out to both Microsoft and Bedrock for details, and will update this post if we hear anything back.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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